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Ian House
I can't think of anything that offends my aesthetic sensibilities more than PLASTIC... Is this it? Are we forever sentenced to live with this stuff until the end of time? Will we EVER return to an age of high refinement and elegance? Just because something can be manufactured by using plastics, must it be? It just never stops. To me, when it comes to manufacturing, using plastic is like "phoning it in" - it's cheap, easy and disposable. It's function without form. (OK, plastic plumbing pipes make sense to me ... but that's it!)

_ _ _

I'm writing about this because I've just returned home from a trip to the market. Along my route, there is a vacant lot where they have been constructing a new church. Today, laying on the ground awaiting to be lifted into place, I saw a prefabricated PLASTIC steeple (fully formed with glorious -ahem- modern architectural detailing) It's a cheap joke -but- Is nothing sacred? It has as much appeal as a Burger King sign -actually, LESS! ... I can't wait to see how beautiful the stained-plastic windows will be.

I recently purchased a new home (which I highly doubt will survive a 19th Century brownstone in Manhattan) ... and I was depressed to learn that the highest grade bathtub offered by the contractor was made out of plastic. So much for the porcelain bubble baths of my lost youth.

True, plastic was invented in 1862 and enjoyed a steady period of experimentation and development throughout the 20th Century (remember Bakelite?) but we are currently reaping the FULL rewards of this chemical miracle child here in the 21st Century. And, it seems, it will only get "better" in the years to come :-( Soon, we will be driving the stuff, wearing the stuff, reading the stuff ... and maybe even eating the stuff as well ...?

This rant has been shrink-wrapped for your convenience.





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Gart
Ian,

Rant or not, you always have something interesting, enjoyable -- usually both -- to impart. Keep 'em coming!

Wasn't 'plastic' the wave of the future as confided to Dustin Hoffman in "The Graduate"?

Gart
Ian House
QUOTE(Gart @ Apr 9 2007, 09:04 PM) *
Wasn't 'plastic' the wave of the future as confided to Dustin Hoffman in "The Graduate"?

Gart



Yes Gart, that was the future offered to Hoffman in 1967 -and the future is NOW!. It is often stated that children are the future of our country. It saddens me to think that even our young women are now made up of about 5% plastic insulted by what nature has provided for them...

Thanks for allowing me to vent, I feel better! (seeing that pseudo-steeple sitting on the ground sent me over the top :-)



-
victrolajazz
QUOTE(Ian House @ Apr 9 2007, 07:04 PM) *
Soon, we will be driving the stuff.

Actually, we've been doing that since at least the 70's. Remember Norma Desmond's comment in Sunset Boulevard: "...cars of today (1950) are made of spit and chrome..." She intended that as an insult--well, at least they HAD chrome! Today she'd have to say "cars are made of spit and plastic".

Eddie the Collector
Ian House
QUOTE(victrolajazz @ Apr 9 2007, 10:01 PM) *
Actually, we've been doing that since at least the 70's.


Actually, I think you're right Eddie... And, come to think of it, I think we've been EATING a lot of plastic-like stuff since the 70's as well :-) ... unless you consider aerosol cheese to come from nature...
victrolajazz
QUOTE(Ian House @ Apr 9 2007, 10:12 PM) *
And, come to think of it, I think we've been EATING a lot of plastic-like stuff since the 70's as well :-) ... unless you consider aerosol cheese to come from nature...

Actually, this is probably true. A friend of mine makes the point that ALL plastics by their very nature are unstable from the moment of manufacture and infintisimal amounts of the stuff can leech into foods stored in containers for long periods. Milk, for instance, would be much better off in glass bottles as it used to be instead of the horrible plastic containers it comes in today.

Another place where the use of plastic backfired was in automobiles in 1940. The new "miracle product" was used lavishly on the dashboards of the upscale cars such as Packards, or the DeLuxe models of Fords, whereas the lowly models had to do with just plain metal. Of course, the upshot was that a couple of decades later, the expensive models' dashes were in slivers while the cheaper cars had perfect dashes!

Eddie the Collector
Ian House
QUOTE(victrolajazz @ Apr 9 2007, 10:20 PM) *
Another place where the use of plastic backfired was in automobiles in 1940. The new "miracle product" was used lavishly on the dashboards of the upscale cars such as Packards, or the DeLuxe models of Fords, whereas the lowly models had to do with just plain metal. Of course, the upshot was that a couple of decades later, the expensive models' dashes were in slivers while the cheaper cars had perfect dashes!

Eddie the Collector


That's FUN! ... You're getting me in the mood for Tulsarama. What do you suspect? Slivers or a perfect dash? :-)
victrolajazz
QUOTE(Ian House @ Apr 9 2007, 10:34 PM) *
That's FUN! ... You're getting me in the mood for Tulsarama. What do you suspect? Slivers or a perfect dash? :-)

I got to see an ample number of those '57 Chrysler product dashes at 5/10/15 year stages--it ain't gonna be a pretty sight! Actually, the 1940 prinicple would still apply--the buried model, a Belvedere, will have the soft dash, while a cheap Plaza would be all metal!

Eddie the Collector
Ian House
Well, we'll know the answer in:

66 days, 13 hours, 7 minutes and 28 seconds!!

Click to watch the YouTube video







.
Ian House
QUOTE(victrolajazz @ Apr 9 2007, 10:40 PM) *
I got to see an ample number of those '57 Chrysler product dashes at 5/10/15 year stages--it ain't gonna be a pretty sight!

Eddie the Collector



Eddie, isn't it usually sunlight that destroys a vintage dash?
Flapper Girl
Wow! Does it get any better than this? That means we have two exhumations to look forward to – that of Houdini and now the ‘57 Plymouth! I understand the decision on Houdini remains with the court and has caused quite a good deal of controversy among his descendants. Will it be a “GO” or not?

Flapper
victrolajazz
QUOTE(Ian House @ Apr 9 2007, 11:58 PM) *
Eddie, isn't it usually sunlight that destroys a vintage dash?

Sunlight just does it faster. BECAUSE it's plastic, it'll always be in flux, its content changing. I think the top covering will have shrunk and pulled away from the defroster area at the front of the dash, exposing the foam rubber underneath which will have long ago simply dried up and flaked away.

Eddie the Collector
laughland
QUOTE(Ian House @ Apr 9 2007, 11:56 PM) *
Well, we'll know the answer in:
66 days, 13 hours, 7 minutes and 28 seconds!!
Click to watch the YouTube video


Maybe we'll also see a singing and dancing frog emerge...
"Hello! ma baby, Hello! Ma honey, Hello! ma ragtime gal!"
Flapper Girl
Oh, for the days when cars came with shiny, chrome bumpers and withstood the test of time. Those painted plastic jobs are an abomination. You pay big bucks for a new car and within a short time what do you have? Scratches, scratches, scratches and you don’t even know how they got there. Must have brushed up against something somewhere along the way. Real crap!

As for other things, they have already started putting plastic in pet foods. Are we next? Melamine anyone?

Flapper
Roseman
QUOTE(Ian House @ Apr 9 2007, 07:04 PM) *
I'm writing about this because I've just returned home from a trip to the market.

.


Ian,

I never thought of plastic as a really bad thing. The disposition of it causes some concern and problems, but the benefits far out weigh the problems. If we still had those old heavy cars with all of that weight, what kind of gas bill would we have? I hate to think with prices as they are now. Without plastics, would we have this wonderful invention called the PC? Just a few thoughts.
One other thought; did you use plastic or paper for your purchases at the market? tongue.gif tongue.gif

Don...
Ian House
QUOTE(Roseman @ Apr 10 2007, 08:35 PM) *
One other thought; did you use plastic or paper for your purchases at the market? tongue.gif tongue.gif

Don...


Actually, I try to always use cash whenever I can. I hate being slowed down by the bank card transactions of the people in front of me, so I refuse to do the same to others...

Yes, I was on a mad rant yesterday and, I admit, I let my anti-plastite feelings show through a little. ... Still, I think the use of it can be overdone at times -like a plastic bathtub vs. porcelain (unacceptable!) To quote Flapper Girl : "Real crap!" ... but, you're right: it has its place, I guess...
dismuke
I used to feel the same way Ian does about plastic. But in recent years, I have actually become a fan of it. I am not a fan of how it is used sometimes. But that doesn't have to be a bad reflection on the material itself.

As someone who tends to relate to the so-called "Golden Age" more than he does his own time, I tend to go out of my way to find things unique to today's world that I can become enthusiastic about. One of those things is technological advances. For example, without the Internet, none of us would "know" each other - and there certainly wouldn't be any places such as Radio Dismuke where people around the world can listen in on broadcasts of 1920s and 1930s music.

One of the really nice things about our age is how inexpensive so many things are compared with what they cost in the "Golden Era." For example, look at ads for vintage items such as radios, records, phonographs etc and look at the vintage prices. Now go to http://www.aier.org/research/col.php and enter in the price and the year to get an idea what those items really cost back then when one factors in currency inflation. 78 rpm records were very expensive - and you only got two sides of maybe 3 minutes of music on each. One can fit the same amount of music you will find a wall of 78 rpm records into an ipod - and the audio quality will be many, many times better. The fact that music back then was worth listening to and very little of the stuff today is worth listening to is a different issue. In terms of aesthetics, things have definitely gone backwards in a major sort of way.

Many electronics and appliances today are so inexpensive that, when they go out, the time of day for a skilled person just to even take a look at them is often worth more than the cost of simply buying a brand new appliance. Back in the Golden Era there were shops that were devoted to fixing broken radios and, later on, television sets. Rarely is it even worth fixing modern radios and even many tv sets. That's not necessarily a bad thing - the reason why it was worth fixing them back then was because they cost so much money to begin with.

The one thing that is not cheaper today for the most part compared with back then is labor. So we get paid more and things cost less.

As for plastic, there are so many things today that would be so much more difficult for people to afford if they were forced to seek out other materials. So many things that we consider as cheap and commonplace today were once luxury items.

Consider what it means to be "poor" in America today. Almost all people classified as "poor" have refrigerators, electric lights and television sets. The vast majority have automobiles, air conditioning, microwave ovens and things like dvd players. Many have cell phones. 100 years ago, such things were either luxury items that only rich people could afford or were not even invented yet. 100 years ago, even many middle class people did not have electricity or indoor plumbing. Being "poor" 100 years ago meant having a hard time just finding food and clothing. Today, one of the biggest problems facing people in "poor" demographics is they eat too much food and are overweight. Food has become so inexpensive and plentiful that it is a challenge for a significant percentage of the population to find ways creative ways into disciplining themselves into eating less. The average "poor" person today in America lives in conditions and takes things for granted that a great many non-poor people 100 years ago would have considered luxurious and remarkable. Plastic, among many other technological developments is one of the things that has made that possible.

Yes, a lot of plastic items are ugly. But is that the fault of plastic? Plastic is very versitile and can be made in pretty much any form imaginable. There is no reason that it has to be put out in ways that are ugly. Imagine what industrial designers back in the 1920s would have done with it had modern plastics been available to them. One can get an idea of sorts by looking at the many beautiful bakelite products made back then. I assure you that what they would have put out would have looked really cool - as most things back then did. The problem in today's world is not too much plastic but rather not enough good aesthetic taste.

My ideal world of the future is that of a high tech version of the early 1900s. It would be a world where we would have all sorts of wonderful marvels made possible by technology - marvels that would make our lives easier, more enjoyable, more prosperous, more healthy and longer. It would be a world without the sort of bigotry, racism and other forms of backward thinking that were a historical blight that the early 1900s inherited from previous generations and was, unfortunately, part of that era as well. But it would be a world that has the aesthetic and cultural "spirit" that made the early 1900s so special. It would be a world where the music, the art , the architecture, the fashion trends and the trends in etiquette would actually be superior to the world of the early 1900s. Unfortunately, since we have gone very far backwards in those areas since the early 1900s, it would take a genious for someone today to be able to concretely envision what such art, music and architecture would be like. But such a world is very much possible - and worth fighting for. The best use of our passion for all of the many wonderful aspects of the early 1900s is to use it as inspiration for an even better future.
Andy Senior
My black PLASTIC 1927 Parker Duofold Jr. fountain pen shows no signs of deteriorating--and, aesthetically speaking, it's a doll.
Ian House
QUOTE(Andy Senior @ Apr 11 2007, 06:16 PM) *
My black PLASTIC 1927 Parker Duofold Jr. fountain pen shows no signs of deteriorating--and, aesthetically speaking, it's a doll.


That's IMPRESSIVE Andy!

I tell you, that's 8o years!! ... That's a LOT more impressive than the LESS than sixth months of service that I just got out of my brand new office chair newly purchased back in September. I got it from an office supply store for about $45 retail. In the middle of January, the plastic structural components held within the swivel mechanism housing broke ... and, alas, the chair was useless to me. In fact, it nearly flipped me over and KILLED me!! ... It was about 90% made out of plastic component parts -the housing, the legs, the castor wheels, the armrest and the "upholstery". They used metal for a handful of screws, a vertical support shaft and probably some ball bearings in the castors that I couldn't see...

Anyway, instead of celebrating its first birthday with me next September, my poor sad-sack chair will be spending its golden years on top of all of my other broken plastic crap in some landfill somewhere. If it had been properly manufactured using metal components (and, perhaps, a little Jazz Age pride), who knows, maybe I would still be able to swivel in it 80 years from now in 2087. I might then be inspired to add a new update to this thread similar to your own, "My black PLASTIC Crapmade Co. office chair shows no signs of deteriorating--and, aesthetically speaking, it's still a hideous eyesore."

So, what can I take away from this? Let's see: Innocuous and commonplace things such as fountain pens, egg cups, telephones and computer mice CAN be made out of plastic (but please don't :-) ... but equipment and heavy machinery such as office chairs, lawn mowers and vacuum cleaners SHOULD NOT be (but they are :-(

_ _ _

Dismuke,

With all due respect, I'm not quite ready to accept the basic economics of your argument. Based on my most recent experience as outlined above (just one of dozens), I would need to spend a little more than $7,200.00 for plastic office chairs ( 1 chair and 159 replacements) to enjoy the same lifetime service of Andy's fountain pen. ... Or, if you prefer a more realistic scenario: $1,080.00 (12 years worth of chairs to replace the properly made wooden one I am now currently using) ... And this doesn't factor in any of my time spent in assembling these chairs and finding a dumpster when it comes time to bid my tearful adieus. (about 20-24 man hours)

When I can afford to do so, I LOVE to collect antiques from the Jazz Age ... and it's easy. The stuff still survives and is readily available (albeit, at a price :-) Thousands, maybe even millions of old typewriters, sewing machines, telephones, cash registers, vacuum cleaners, gumball machines, display cases, gramophones, milk bottles, etc, etc ... and, YES, even automobiles! Why does SO much of it still survive almost a hundred years later? I would argue that much of the reason is due to the quality of production and materials that went into their manufacture -and the craftsmanship of the wood, metal, glass, paper and BAKELITE! ( I admit it :-) And they respected the appropriate industrial application for each of these materials.

When I was living in California, I would often see vintage automobiles from the 20's-60s being used for daily commuting purposes and, of course, as collectible trophies. Curiously enough, in my 12 year stay there, I can't EVER recall seeing a Ford Pinto or Maverick or a Gremlin Pacer from the 70s. Either they have all turned into junkyard dust by now or they are just too aesthetically embarrassing to showcase around ... Or maybe I've just trained my eyeballs NOT to see them in the first place!?? That's entirely possible :-) I tend to believe, however, that the vintage vehicles were properly built and designed to last through several generations ... In fact, an old Ford pickup would be just PERFECT to use to cart off a mountain of freshly broken office chairs to the junkyard!

_ _ _

Putting the economics argument aside ... for after all, my original post was a complaint solely regarding the aesthetics of plastic as an overly used and abused material by today's industry - I think there is a social value that we realize from exquisite and "grown-up" industrial design, packaging, architecture, etc, etc. And I think it might deserve its price tag as well. Otherwise, every church in every community will be adorned with a plastic steeple ... and every plastic door will be covered with a wood-textured veneer. It'll be just like living in a giant-sized kiddy playland with toy buildings and astro-turf. The only thing missing will be the Fisher-Price logo.




.
Andy Senior
Ian,

The same exact thing happened to our computer chair last year. One of the five plastic radii gave way, and I was dumped heavily to the floor. The only factor that lessened the pain of the impact was that I was listening to Rich Conaty at the time!

I really hate to throw stuff out, so I salvaged the seat and back and was able to attach them to a metal base for a similar office chair that I had found in my curbside ramblings--and three of the screw holes lined up! So I pitched the broken base of the one and the ruined seat of the other, and I was back in business.

Aesthetically, it's a dog but my innate sense of cheapness radiated with joy. My inner Collyer Brother smiled also.

Speaking of typewriters, I've been hoarding those, too. I've got hundred-year-old models that type beautifully, and lots of ribbons and extra platens. If this internet thing ever turns out to be a dud, I'm all set. And they are delightful.
Ian House
Oh Andy,

I'm SO sorry to hear that you were actually deposited onto the floor... Yikes! I was just sent off balance with my heart pounding like a drum. I admire your can-do spirit when it comes to finding a back-up solution :-)

_ _ _

I have a couple of old typewriters in my Toronto storage ... and two beautiful Singer sewing machines as well. I can't say if the typewriters are still operational or not because I just bought them for eye-candy -but I can tell you that all of the letter keys are accounted for. I bought them before the fad to repurpose the keys into jewelry began. I suppose it would be difficult to buy an unmolested typewriter today...?
Andy Senior
QUOTE
I bought them before the fad to repurpose the keys into jewelry began. I suppose it would be difficult to buy an unmolested typewriter today...?


You can still find them if you get there before the crafters. A crafter is a hobbyist who pays homage to the past by taking a functional antique and turning it into tacky junk. They are the same types who, thirty years ago, pulled the guts out of Victrolas to make liquor cabinets.

I've actually bought typewriters on eBay to keep crafters from destroying them! (Unfortunately, the postal service often succeeded where the crafters failed.)
Victor C. Brunswick
QUOTE(dismuke @ Apr 11 2007, 02:19 AM) *
One of the really nice things about our age is how inexpensive so many things are compared with what they cost in the "Golden Era." For example, look at ads for vintage items such as radios, records, phonographs etc and look at the vintage prices. Now go to http://www.aier.org/research/col.php and enter in the price and the year to get an idea what those items really cost back then when one factors in currency inflation.


I have several reprints of the Sears catalog from different years. I happened to have the reprint of their Fall 1909 catalog handy so thought I'd compare prices between then and now. Unfortunately the aier.org site only goes back to 1913 values so this is an approximation of a selected range of goods that were available in 1909 in today's dollars.

The original 1909 price is in parentheses

--Columbia Type AH Disc Gramophone -- $615 ($30)
--No. 1 Harvard Disc Talking Machine -- $179 ($8.75)
--1 x Bottle, Dr. Barker's Blood Builder -- $11 (54 cents)
--Princess Bust Developer with 1 x Bottle, Princess Bust Expander, and 1x Jar, Bust Cream or Food -- $29.95 ($1.46) -- Such a deal! laugh.gif
--Pair of Ladies' Shoes -- $41 ($2)
--Mens Cotton Work Shirt -- $8 (38 cents)
--56-piece Florence Rose Dinner Set (E.M. Knowles China Co.) -- $101 ($4.98)
--Buggy -- $819 ($39.95)
--Burnett Visible Typewriter -- $470 ($22.95)

Incidentally, for those curious enough, the "Bust Developer" was a device resembling a plunger, 4 or 5 inches in diameter, made out of nickel and aluminum. For best results the manufacturer recommended the 4 inch model!
Flapper Girl
When New Hampshire’s grand Old Man of the Mountain tumbled to the ground in May of 2003, residents of the state were devastated and saddened over the loss of the state’s icon. For centuries The Great Stone Face had overlooked Profile Lake in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and millions of visitors had stopped to gaze up at him through those years. As people mourned his loss, a task force was formed to take suggestions on what might be done to create a proper memorial at the location. Can you believe there was actually a proposal floated to rebuild the venerable Old Man in…in … you guessed it, PLASTIC! Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and the idea was shot down. A park has now been established as a fitting memorial in keeping with the dignity The Old Man so justly deserves.

Flapper
victrolajazz
QUOTE(Ian House @ Apr 11 2007, 10:37 PM) *
and every plastic door will be covered with a wood-textured veneer.

In the '70s, when every surface of every manufactured item--regardless of intended purpose--was covered in fake wood grain, my company, Lone Star Gas Company, actually marketed in its appliance section, a thermostatically-controlled space heater. Its insulated cabinet was covered with fake wood grain. A STOVE made out of wood!

Eddie the Collector
Ian House
QUOTE(Flapper Girl @ Apr 12 2007, 08:10 AM) *
When New Hampshire's grand Old Man of the Mountain tumbled to the ground in May of 2003, residents of the state were devastated and saddened over the loss of the state's icon. For centuries The Great Stone Face had overlooked Profile Lake in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and millions of visitors had stopped to gaze up at him through those years. As people mourned his loss, a task force was formed to take suggestions on what might be done to create a proper memorial at the location. Can you believe there was actually a proposal floated to rebuild the venerable Old Man in…in … you guessed it, PLASTIC! Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and the idea was shot down. A park has now been established as a fitting memorial in keeping with the dignity The Old Man so justly deserves.

Flapper


Yes, Flap ... Yes .... I can visualize it now: The actual reconstruction would be done in plastic but, in the giftshop below, they would sell souvenir key-chain reproductions of the Old Man made out of real granite!

I can remember the day of the Old Man's passing and I still sympathize with your loss...
Ian House
QUOTE(victrolajazz @ Apr 12 2007, 09:50 AM) *
In the '70s, when every surface of every manufactured item--regardless of intended purpose--was covered in fake wood grain, my company, Lone Star Gas Company, actually marketed in its appliance section, a thermostatically-controlled space heater. Its insulated cabinet was covered with fake wood grain. A STOVE made out of wood!

Eddie the Collector


That's HILARIOUS Eddie!! :-) At least the heater wasn't actually made out of wood and covered with a fake metal veneer! ... I've always thought that the saddest fake-on-fake combination is wood-textured veneer on top of particle board (actually, more plastic on top of plastic)
Victor C. Brunswick
A while back I was at either a Target store or Kmart and I came across repros of Depression glass patterns faithfully executed in -- you guessed it -- plastic! At least the Depression glass repros that came out in the '70s and '80s were STILL glass.
victrolajazz
QUOTE(Victor C. Brunswick @ Apr 12 2007, 01:46 PM) *
At least the Depression glass repros that came out in the '70s and '80s were STILL glass.

I know there was Depression glass--my mother had some quite lovely pinkish ones--but didn't know they'd been reproduced in the 70's or 80's. I wonder if they meant Carnival glass? Got its name from monetarily cheap but really quite lovely pieces given away at fairs as prizes, maybe in the 30's, or much earlier--I think the formula had been secret. In the late 60's, it was supposed to have been reproduced using the original formula and I remember buying someone a lovely pitcher made of it--it was somewhat purple in color but with its trademark iridescence. I think the value of even those repos has held up well.

Eddie the Collector
Flapper Girl
I have several pieces of Depression glass, as well as some Carnival glass dishes, which belonged to my mother. The two are quite different. Depression glass came in green or pink and was smooth and clear in nature. Carnival glass is cut glass, is opaque, with orange/purplish tones and has that certain iridescence you mention, Eddie. It's difficult to describe.

Flap
Ian House
QUOTE(Flapper Girl @ Apr 12 2007, 02:15 PM) *
It's difficult to describe.


Well then, perhaps some photos from eBay will help. Flap, as you can see, your descriptions are extremely accurate and spot on!

Carnival Glass:




Depression Glass:

Ian House


Contemporary Glass:




.
Roseman
O.K. Gang,

This plastic thread needs a little attention. People are not taking the situation serious enough and we need to educate them on the real facts. So here's a few links and sites to take a look at and hopefully everyone will see the light.


Made from corn and is compostable (Maybe they can work on this and it can be edible)
http://cornplastic.kelseypromo.com/

Good use of recycle plastic, watch the slide show for all of the products.
http://www.plasticboards.com/

Now you must admit, this is real creative recycling...
http://plasticlumberyard.com/spyonabird.htm

Now here's something that must be the coolest thing to come along since Berliner and the flat disk.
http://createdigitalmusic.com/?p=23





And what would be the replacement material for this?



Don... biggrin.gif biggrin.gif biggrin.gif
Ian House
Plastic Lumber? I suppose that's no longer considered to be an oxymoron...

And Corn Plastic? Is it microwave-safe? Or does it just turn into more popcorn...?
Flapper Girl
Now, let me see..... What did folks use before plastic commodes came upon the scene? Oh, now I remember..... Good old fashioned chamberpots. Made of porcelain, they were wondrous things to behold, especially at 2 or 3 AM on a cold, wintry night. Sure beat the alternative of making the trek outside to the little house with the half moon on the door.

Flap
Roseman
QUOTE(Flapper Girl @ Apr 12 2007, 06:21 PM) *
Now, let me see..... What did folks use before plastic commodes came upon the scene? Oh, now I remember..... Good old fashioned chamberpots. Made of porcelain, they were wondrous things to behold, especially at 2 or 3 AM on a cold, wintry night. Sure beat the alternative of making the trek outside to the little house with the half moon on the door.

Flap


Ah yes, I remember those days and lived them too. I was almost a teenager before my parents put in indoor plumbing. There were five of us in a two bedroom house. Momma and Daddy had one bedroom and three of us boys sleep in the other bedroom. We slept three to a bed; and being the youngest, I got to sleep in the middle with the big brothers mashing and poking me all night.

Momma cooked on an old wood stove and one of my chores was to make sure the kindling box was always full. I failed once in this responsiblilty and remember my daddy rolling me out of bed early one morning and sent me out in the dark, cold winter morning to prepare a whole box of fresh kindling. I don't remember ever failing to uphold that chore again.

Wood stoves were great in the winter, an extra source for heat, but boy in these southern summers, it was terrible. Cook, eat, and get out of the house, and hoped things cooled down by bedtime.

Ah, the good old days...???

Don...


Ian House
Don,

Thanks for sharing those childhood memories. It's quite fascinating to hear stories about that time period.

Have you always lived in North Carolina? And, it almost sounds like you were in a more rural environment. If so, did your parents grow up with electricity, or did it come along with FDR's "Rural Electrification" program ... ? And, if not rural, what was the closest city?



.
Roseman
QUOTE(Ian House @ Apr 12 2007, 07:47 PM) *
Don,

Thanks for sharing those childhood memories. It's quite fascinating to hear stories about that time frame.

Have you always lived in North Carolina?



I spent a couple years in the midwest, floating up and down the Illinois and Missouri rivers under Uncle Sam's guidance in the U.S. Coast Guard. Being stationed in Peoria and Kansas City. Later my civilian job took me to Tennesse for a few years, but the rest has been here in NC.

Let me share this river experience. This was in 1957 and our river boat had stopped for the night on the Illinois river, far from any town or city and I had the midnight watch up in the wheel house. There were several old stern paddle river boats that were still in use primarily to take people out on the river for dining and dancing. Mostly dixieland music. They would spent a couple days and nights in a town and then move on down the river to the next town. I was on watch and it was about 2 or 3 in the morning, no noise, except the bugs and frogs and what little noise I was making. Then I heard some strange distance sound coming from the river. A sound I had never heard before. I immediately got out the binoculars to see what I could and there in the far distance was this old river boat churning its way up the river, going to the next town to put on it's show. Being all of about 19 years old, chills ran up my spine and I felt as if I was instantly transformed back to the 1800's. It was an experience that was totally unreal and to this day I can still see and feel the excitement of that experience. Shades of Mark Twain.

Don...

Ian House
How wonderful to have such a vivid memory of that riverboat... Isn't the name Mark Twain somehow a derivation of the call that a riverboat captain would shout out? I'll have to visit Wikipedia for clarification on that.

When I drove across the country to get to Indiana, I spent an evening in St. Louis and saw a paddleboat there near the Arch. When I go to the Tulsarama event in June, I plan to pass through there again ... and do a little Route 66-ing along the way to OK...


EDIT:

I just found a single sentence on Encarta accounting for the origin of "Mark Twain":

"Seeking a good pen name, he chose Mark Twain, a Mississippi riverboat phrase called out to test the water's depth; "twain," or two fathoms (12 feet) deep, meant it was safe for navigating."
Roseman
QUOTE(Ian House @ Apr 12 2007, 07:47 PM) *
Don,


And, it almost sounds like you were in a more rural environment. If so, did your parents grow up with electricity, or did it come along with FDR's "Rural Electrification" program ... ? And, if not rural, what was the closest city?
.



I would call it semi-rural. We lived right outside the city limits in the county and we had chickens, pigs, and a cow. You must remember that during the 30's, 40's and even into the early 50's some people still had this life style and had not made the big city transition. We had electricty, but no running water. We got our water from a hand dug well. The road we lived on was dirt and in the summer was always dusty from the cars that would pass by. We did not have a telephone, television, and my daddy never owned a car or ever drove one. We walked or rode a bus. We went modern in the late 50's. I had already left home and was in the service.

Don...

p.s. We grew most of our vegetables and canned them. Later my parents build a greenhouse and started growing and selling plants. My dad grew some roses and I guess I got my interest in roses from that.
laughland
QUOTE(Ian House @ Apr 12 2007, 10:04 PM) *
How wonderful to have such a vivid memory of that riverboat... Isn't the name Mark Twain somehow a derivation of the call that a riverboat captain would shout out? I'll have to visit Wikipedia for clarification on that.

EDIT:

I just found a single sentence on Encarta accounting for the origin of "Mark Twain":

"Seeking a good pen name, he chose Mark Twain, a Mississippi riverboat phrase called out to test the water's depth; "twain," or two fathoms (12 feet) deep, meant it was safe for navigating."

You almost have the complete story here - I've read enough about Mr. Clemens to know this from memory!

On the river they would mark a put marks on the line they used for testing the depth and as you said, the second mark was at 12 feet - which as you mentioned was considered the standard depth for safe navigation.

As the leadsman kept checking the line he'd call out what mark it was on - for example, "by the mark four" or "by the mark three". The second mark was called out as "by the mark twain" or simply just "mark twain" and generally was shouted more enthusiastically than for any of the other marks because it of the significance of that depth.
dismuke
QUOTE(Roseman @ Apr 12 2007, 08:34 PM) *
Wood stoves were great in the winter, an extra source for heat, but boy in these southern summers, it was terrible. Cook, eat, and get out of the house, and hoped things cooled down by bedtime.



One thing I have always wondered is why people back then either did not have an outdoors type of stove for the summer months or else move the existing stove outdoors to some sort of covered but open air shelter that would protect the stove from rain. The last thing I would want to do in a house with no air conditioning is operate a wood stove in the summer indoors.
Roseman
QUOTE(laughland @ Apr 12 2007, 10:04 PM) *
You almost have the complete story here - I've read enough about Mr. Clemens to know this from memory!

On the river they would mark a put marks on the line they used for testing the depth and as you said, the second mark was at 12 feet - which as you mentioned was considered the standard depth for safe navigation.


As we moved into the twentith century, the Army Corps of Engineers started dredging out channels for safe navigation and the Coast Guard had the responsibility of keeping the channels marked with bouys and other markers. The harsh winters with the river ice would cause the bouys and markers to be torn loose from their anchor points and consequently they had to be re-established by the Coast Guard. A long and laborius job, but one that had it's benefits. I got to see the beauty of the river country from a different view other than rail or road. A favorite quote that's been contributed to Mark Twain is a comment he said about the Missouri river. He said it was 'the only river you could see dust blow off of it'. I believe it, it was a muddy river.





QUOTE(dismuke @ Apr 13 2007, 03:01 AM) *
One thing I have always wondered is why people back then either did not have an outdoors type of stove for the summer months or else move the existing stove outdoors to some sort of covered but open air shelter that would protect the stove from rain. The last thing I would want to do in a house with no air conditioning is operate a wood stove in the summer indoors.


Some people did do some outside cooking. Another thing was to heat your wash water for washing clothes. This was always a monday ritual at our house. Water would be heated in a big copper cauldron and than put into an old Easy electric washing machine. I was always fascinated seeing my momma do the washing. I also remember an old gentleman that lived behind out place and I liked to visit him and let him tell about his fur trapping days up in Virginia. His grandfather had been a musician in the Civil War, playing a fife. I played flute and piccolo in our HS band and he gave me his fathers fife and I still have it to this day. Anyway, he was a true outdoorsman and did a lot of cooking outside. As for moving the wood stove outside, not very pratical and besides, these were heavy kitchen appliances.

Don...
Flapper Girl
The porcelain chamberpots were usually decorated with flowers and quite elegant. The one pictured is of metal and without much class at all.

My parents had a wood stove and believe me it took an army of men to set one up, as they were cast iron and extremely heavy. No plastic here, my friends, and it separated the men from the boys! It was a half-day chore and once set in place and the stovepipe attached to the chimney, it wasn’t about to be moved again for the duration. No one would have been willing to volunteer his services each spring and fall to move it again, as it meant risking a hernia or broken back. An outside chimney would have also been necessary.

I remember the draft in the stovepipe had a lot to do with firing those babies up and you had to adjust it as necessary. Cooking on a wood stove was an art form and took a certain amount of patience and skill. Most of them were black, but my mother’s was similar to the one above – a light crème color, trimmed with aqua. As kids, we would slip the lower parts of our bodies underneath it, lying on our bellies and soaking up the heat when we came in from skating or skiing. We spent many happy hours there coloring or working on other important projects. Yes, the kitchen certainly became hot in summer when the cooking was done, but in later years my mother had a small kerosene stove she used in summer. It was housed in an attached shed, but the wood stove was still fired up when necessary.

Flapper
matto
QUOTE(dismuke @ Apr 13 2007, 04:01 AM) *
One thing I have always wondered is why people back then either did not have an outdoors type of stove for the summer months or else move the existing stove outdoors to some sort of covered but open air shelter that would protect the stove from rain. The last thing I would want to do in a house with no air conditioning is operate a wood stove in the summer indoors.



My Grandmother, who is almost 92, remembers having a "summer kitchen" on the back porch of their house. They had a separate cooking stove out there so that they could cook without heating up the house. This was the "new" house build in 1918 when my grandmother was 2. It was a novelty because of that summer kitchen and electricity.

They still had and outhouse and heated the house with coal until 1931, when the summer kitchen was enclosed and turned into a 4th bedroom and indoor bathroom. They also installed gas in the house for cooking. I still remember the 1930's gas cooking stove sitting out in the barn.

One thing to note about the house is that the interior was VERY Edwardian in style except for the bedroom and bathroom addition, which had many Art Deco elements.

When I was a child in the 1980's and my Great Grandmother passed away, I remember going into that house many times. It was a big old type of house with a foyer and all.....including a giant brass gated coal heating stove in the dining room, which was in disuse for years, but still remained. All the closets were lined with cedar, so the smell of cedar was very strong thoughout the house. My great grandmother kept the house in an old fashioned German style. I remember old furnature everywhere, and even old 20's era hats and coats in the coat closet. There was a Victor electrola in the living room and stained glass light fixtures. The house was a literal time capsule...albiet a bit worn. At that time no one had lived in the house for awhile and the wall paper was peeling down and there were bats in the chimney. My grandmother, however, kept all of the woodwork highly polished. The house extruded elements of both grandeur and decay. What is interesting is that my great-grandparents never gave in to "modern" culture. The house, as I remember, had not one element past the 1940's in it.
My great-grandparents ran a hardware and housewares store from 1910 to the 1970's. The store was founded by my great-great-grandfather in 1899.

The store closed in 1979 before I was born. It was last run by my great-uncle.
When my parents married in 1977, my Father toured the store and remembers that it was also frozen in time. It had a tin pressed ceiling, ancient ceiling fans, skylights, glass and wood counters, and shelving around the peremeter. The high shelving was accessed with giant ladders. My Dad says that it looked exactly like a 1915 picture my Grandmother has.

Unfortunately both the house and store were sold for financial reasons. The store was GUTTED and turned into an addition for the First National Bank. It now has a tacky 1980's decor with an acoustic tile cieling, gold fans, mustard yellow carpeting, cheap wood paneling, and an UGLY composite stone new front OVER the brick. All of the display cases and shelving were sold. Ironically, my great uncle still works in the same building, as a bank book-keeper at age 86. The house was sold in the 1990's after being vacant for many years. The new owners were relatives and restored the house well, although they did put in some modern tacky elements. Needless to say, it is no longer a time capsule.
Ian House
Hi Matt,

Your post is wonderfully redolent of cedar and lemon furniture polish! Thank you so much for giving us such an evocative description of my 20's dream house :-)

Now, back to the reality of vinyl siding and plastic garage doors...
matto
QUOTE(Ian House @ Apr 14 2007, 11:10 AM) *
Hi Matt,

Your post is wonderfully redolent of cedar and lemon furniture polish! Thank you so much for giving us such an evocative description of my 20's dream house :-)

Now, back to the reality of vinyl siding and plastic garage doors...



Yes Yes....the house now HAS vinyl siding on it. And, the decorative capitals are gone form the roofline!
One stained glass light fixture was removed for a ceiling fan and the kitchen was modernized. At least they did not paint the brick on the porch!
Victor C. Brunswick
What I find to be a real eyesore out here are these old bungalows built in the '10s, '20s, and '30s whose owners have covered with stucco!

I often wonder if the blueprints to some of these old, and some long-gone, houses are still floating around. My dream house would be to build a NEW house from the original almost century-old drawings.
Ian House
QUOTE(Victor C. Brunswick @ Apr 14 2007, 12:47 PM) *
My dream house would be to build a NEW house from the original almost century-old drawings.


Hi Victor,

Sign me up for one of those as well! But it'll have to come with a narrow staircase, hardwood floors and a real attic. If you build them, I bet you'd be able to sell a million of them in the first week -and not just to fellow Dismukers...
victrolajazz
QUOTE(Victor C. Brunswick @ Apr 14 2007, 01:47 PM) *
I often wonder if the blueprints to some of these old, and some long-gone, houses are still floating around. My dream house would be to build a NEW house from the original almost century-old drawings.

That very thing was done in Dallas in the late 90's. A house--a bungalow-- was built using plans from 1911 about three blocks east of Lemmon Ave. on a corner lot. A combination garage/upstairs apartment using plans from 1921 was built for the garage--of course all modern safety/environmental requirements had to be accommodated. The first builder was dismissed because he was not following the plans strictly enough--it has all old-style fittings on the doors, transoms, the works. The only regrettable thing was that the north side was right beside an apartment building and code required the entire, out-of-view north side be made of concrete blocks with no windows. If I can find anything further on it, I'll post it.

Eddie the Collector
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